Protests erupted on Sunday in a Kansas City, Missouri, neighborhood after a white homeowner shot a Black teen twice after the teen mistakenly rang the man’s doorbell while trying to pick up his younger brothers.
Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old high school junior, was attempting to pick up his brothers from a house on 115th Terrace in the city. When he rang the doorbell of a house on 115th Street by mistake, a white man answered the door and shot Yarl in the head.
As Yarl laid on the ground after being shot, the man, who has not been named by police, shot him for a second time in the arm. Though Yarl managed to escape, he went to three different houses in the neighborhood before someone helped him.
Yarl was released from the hospital on Monday, and is currently at home continuing his recovery process.
The homeowner was detained by police but released 24 hours later. Police have claimed they need “more information” before they can make an arrest.
The man who shot Yarl will likely defend himself using “Stand Your Ground” laws, which allow people to use lethal force if they claim they were defending themselves or their property, even in circumstances where they could have avoided violence by stepping away from a confrontation. Such laws essentially allow white people to murder Black and Brown people with impunity, and evidence suggests that Black and Brown people are rarely successful in citing such laws to defend themselves in court.
“If arrested and charged, the White male shooter will almost certainly deploy Missouri’s stand-your-ground law to claim (White) homeowners have a right to murder (Black) children who mistakenly ring their door bells,” Black historian Ibram X. Kendi wrote on Twitter. “Because racist violence is usually projected as self-defense.”
On Sunday, around 1,000 people gathered to protest on the street where the shooting took place. Many chanted phrases in support of Yarl, including “Stand up, fight back” and “Justice for Ralph.”
Yarl’s aunt, Dr. Faith Spoonmore, was among those who attended. “Ralph will feel the love because this is a lot of people, it’s amazing,” she said.
Ralph’s father, Paul Yarl, demanded that the legal system hold the man who shot his son accountable.
“We just want justice, Ralph is a good kid, he doesn’t deserve what is happening to him,” Paul Yarl said, adding:
Our message for the prosecutor: we want charges, that’s what we want. If he goes free, the next Black kid that rings that doorbell could get shot again. We don’t want that.
Kansas City council member Melissa Robinson also condemned the shooting. “No justice. No peace,” she said. “Now is the time for us to demonstrate that law and order applies to us all. We don’t feel safe walking to the gas station or ringing a doorbell.”
“It is situations like this that feed the ongoing distrust in law enforcement when Black people are the victims of excessive or deadly force at the hands of white citizens and law enforcement,” said Gwen Grant, president of the Urban League of Kansas City.
Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Lee Merritt are representing the Yarl family. Both expressed outrage that police have so far refused to arrest the man who shot Yarl.
“You can’t just shoot people without having justification when somebody comes knocking on your door — and knocking on your door is not justification,” Crump said. “This guy should be charged.”
“Ralph is fighting for his life. This man must be arrested,” Merritt said in a tweet.
The lawyers wrote in a joint statement that there is “no excuse for the release of this armed and dangerous suspect,” especially after the man “[admitted] to shooting an unarmed, non-threatening and defenseless teenager that rang his doorbell.”